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canario timbrado



By Miguel Angel Martin Espada (C.N.J. and F.O.C.D.E. Judge)

Following the famous " Treaty of Roller canaryculture " by Evaristo Fratantoni, some Spanish authors and , even, some Code of Song mentions like physiological factors that influence in the tone of the sounds produced by the canary the following ones:

-The diameter of the bronchi. - The wide bronchi determine a loss of velocity in the expulsion of the air; on the contrary narrow bronchi expel air at more speed.

-The length of the esternotraqueal muscle. - When this one is short disables the elongation of the traquea. A short trachea or that is not extended with facility elevates the tone of the sound.

-The rigidity in the walls of the traquea. – Rigid walls increase the tone of the song.

-The position of the larynx. - Since the larynx in spite of not having vocal cords, can be obdurate or be opened and modify therefore the tone(*8).

We have already seen that the scientists do not agree totally with the observations of Fratantoni, but we have believed advisable to mention them.


Figure 4. Cerebral nucleus that take part in the song function: Jarvis and Nottebohm, " Motor-driven gene expression ", 1997 The National Academy of Sciences of the the USA:

The complex song mechanism that we have just described is controlled by the central nervous system - see black arrows at 4.a) -, emphasizing two main cerebral nuclei located in the telencephalon: the High Vocal Center (HVC) and the Robustus Archistrialis (RA); that through the neuronal network, the craneal nerve XII or great hypogloss, located in the rachidian bulb, and of the hipogloss nerves (also called tracheosyringeal), send their information to the muscles that allow the production of the sound in syrinx. Next to these cerebral nuclei we find others, connected of one or another form with one or both of the main ones. The most relevant are the Medium Magnocellularis Nucleus (MMAN) and the Lateral Magnocellularis Nucleus (LMAN), also located in telencephalon and connected neuronally with the HVC, the first one, and with the RA, the second; the LMAN plays an important role in the learning of the song and its motor development. Other cerebral nuclei of importance in the song are Nucleus Intercollicularis (ICO), located in mesoencéfalo, connected with the RA and craneal nerve XII; Nucleus Interface (NIF), connected to the CVS; the UVA, connected with the CVS; and the cerebral area X, connected with the CVS. The proximity of some of these nuclei with the hearing centers of the brain is related by some experts to the capacity of memorization and learning of the birds and the later motor development - figure 4.b) -. In fact, recent studies propose a double mechanism in the memorization of the songs: the first one consists in the memorization based on the motor expression of the song (or, which is the same, memorization of the song through its practice and vocal development, expressed through the plastic song or review); the second is based on the storage in the memory of the songs listened to by the canaries. Both mechanisms interrelate, since a young canary deprived of the sense of hearing is incapable to develop a normal song, which demonstrates that the bird must be able to hear its own vocalizations to memorize them suitably and to compose its song.

Scientists, and among them Fernando Nottebohm (he is the author of most of the studies on neurological control in the song of the canary), have demonstrated clear sexual differences in the size of these cerebral nuclei, specially of the CVS and the RA. The volume of the CVS and the RA is much larger in males than in females. Also it has been shown that the size of these nuclei is directly related to the hormone level in the blood, concretely of the masculine hormone: the testosterone; to greater hormonal level greater is the volume of these two cerebral nuclei (* 9). Also it has been related the size of these cerebral nuclei to the complexity, variety and duration of the song: to larger volume greater musical capacity. Although the fact that a canary has a very voluminous CVS and RA does not imply a better song necessarily, just shows faculties that the canary may or not develop (* 10).

Returning to the hipogloss nerves, that, as we have seen, are in charge to transmit the information generated in the brain to the syrinx, we should explain that the right hypogloss controls the right part of the syrinx and the same happens with the left. This explains for the scientists the independent operation of each one of the syrinx sides.

Be that as it may, the scientists have demonstrated that the intervention in the song function of each one of the sides of syrinx is unequal, being on the left side the greater weight to the sonorous production in the case of the canary and most of passerines (lateral vocal control with predominance of the left side).

The studies demonstrate that if the nerve right hipogloss is sectioned the bird only lose some elements of the song, that are replaced by noises or silences; on the contrary, if the left nerve is sectioned will disappear most of the song motives. The effects of the section of the left hypogloss vary according to the phase of the development of the song in which the bird is:
-Subsong: After a brief time interval, the young bird retakes his sonorous emissions with normality, the bird replaces the functional loss of the left nerve with the right. The left nerve does not regenerate, although there are exceptions that confirm the rule and, luckyly for us, one of them is the canary. If the left nerve is sectioned between the 13th and 27th day of life, the nerve regenerates and both sides of the syrinx share the sonorous production (there will be sounds emitted by the right side, sounds produced by the left and others, a third approximately, in whose production both halves take part).
-Plastic song: The bird remains his entire life in this phase of the song, without getting to crystallize a song of stereotyped adult. The canary returns to be an exception, since he is able to replace the loss of the left side with the right and to get a song like an adult.
-Stable song: The sounds produced by the left half are replaced in the song by silences or noises.

In the search of the possessors of the best voices and song aptitude, the breeders of canaries have selected the morphology of our canaries looking for certain characteristics present in most of quality singers:

Great head.

Torax amplitude.

Average volume or size

Horizontal position of song (* 11).

The three first morphologic characteristics seems, considering the mentioned studies, that could be taken like indications of a greater cerebral capacity, a respiratory system more developed and songs of average tonalities, more musical, neither too high nor very deep (* 12).

1,2,3, Conclusions.

1ª) We must look for the perfection of our canaries voices. The voice timbre must be rich and agreed with the characteristics of the type of turns that we try to develop in the repertoire of our canaries. It must have, and be able to develop, a pitch registry as wide as possible. In addition, it must be able to develop the song with the appropriate intensity at every moment , with faculties to modulate it and to grant to the song the most delicate musical shades. The sounds emitted by our canaries must be clean and clear, with an excellent diction (must predominate the vowel sounds, more musical than the consonántic) and with the proper duration to be able to be appreciated without boring to the listener.

2ª) We will try to obtain birds whose song comes as close as possible to our ideal form. In order to obtain it, we must work the innate pattern of song of our canaries by means of the development of the predisposition to the transmission of songs based on tours of noncontinuous rate, mainly in the discontinuous ones; and this is because the predominance in the song of the tours of semicontinuous rate would confer to the song a precipitation sensation that would result in a clear loss of musicality.

1.3. - Method of selection. Integral selection of reproducers.

There are different selection methods that the breeder uses according to the objectives to fulfill. In the present work we will opt for a method of integral selection, that combines phenotipic selection, functional and genetic.

Although it is certain that our fundamental objective is the song and, in addition, a certain morphologic type that favors the song aptitude, also are of extreme importance the genetic selection in the creation of a good line of singers and the functional selection, since without good organic, sanitary conditions and of vitality a satisfactory development of the song is not possible.

By phenotipic selection we will understand that selection made based on the perceivable characters by our senses (* 13) and whose ideal pattern represents the objectives that we have already seen (* 14, 15).

By functional selection, is understood the made looking for a correct organic and physiological operation, as well as a perfect sanitary state in our birds. These characteristics facilitate us the breeding , since the value of our canaries as breeders is measured in the functional valuation. As an example we will mention some of the parameters that are used to measure the functional value of the breeders in attention to their individual and familiar characteristics: characters of the new born and index of survival; growth, development, jump of the nest and age of separation from the parents; vitality; resistance to the diseases; reproductive behavior, fertility, etc. The breeding reports facilitate the functional valuation, whatever more data gather greater will be their utility (* 16).

Finally, we call genetic selection to the made based on the phenotipic and functional valuation of the ancestors of the birds object of study and, in addition, in case of adult canaries, of the descendants (the denominated test of the lineage). Also we can value the phetotipic and functional characteristics of other related birds and their descendants (brothers, cousins, nephews, etc.). We cannot either forget the analysis of the inbreeding degree, distinguishing, although the reality is more complex, between narrow inbreeding (between relatives of 1º and 2º degree), average (between relatives of 3º and 4º degree) or distant (of 5º degree in ahead) (* 17). We shouldn´t confuse the degree of kinship with the inbreeding rate or index , this last one is obtained by complicated mathematical formula, difficult to apply in our case because of the complexity of the inbreeding crossings that usually we make.

The instrument more adapted to make the genetic valuation of a unit, a family or a line of song is its pedigree (* 18). Like with the breeding card, whatever more data contains, more useful it will be, in opposite case it will be a relation of useful numbers for the breeder that makes it, but senseless in most of the cases for others.

The kind of selection within the integral method will often depend on the aspects to improve in our canaries. For example, when in our birdroom we begin to have serious problems during the breeding, due to the decrease in the reproductive capacity caused by the phenotipic and genetic selection in damage of the functional one, we will have, under risk to lose all the obtained throughout many seasons, to focus during years on the functional selection, keeping the birds with greater reproductive aptitude.

Sometimes, before canaries of unsatisfactory song and with the purpose of not losing the genetic contribution of a line that has demonstrated its excellent song value, we will prioritize the genetic valuation to the phenotipic.

1.4. - Selection of males.

The selection of males must be made, applying what already we have seen, based on the following parameters:

1º) Absence of song education with masters or electronic means.

2º) Perfection of the voice, to which a certain timbre or color and a pitch registry are inherent, as a manifestation of suitable song apparatus and a good state of health.

3º) Dominion of the vocal faculties, made clear through the correct control of the tone and intensity of the song and a good diction.

4º) Aptitude or musical talent, declared through the slowed down, rythmical and melodic transmission, as well as the richness in modulations of tone and intensity and in the different tours or variations that, to an correct duration, conform the song or songs of the canary.

5º) Emission of a varied repertoire, based on tours of noncontinuous rate, with plinth in the discontinuous of limitless phonetic text (flourishes, slow flourishes and cojoint variations) and with the complement of other tours of noncontinuous rate as clucks and a minimum touch of watery tours (preferably slow water and semibound water forming cojoint variations with clucks) (* 19).

6º) Absence in the repertoire of negative tours (scratches, stridencies and nasalities), degenerative (those that in their phonetic text predominate phonemes prone to scratches, stidencies or nasalities such as the consonants Ch, R and G; and the vowels I, E and A, when they do not go accompanied of other phonemes that smooth their sound); and tours of continuous rate (* 20) (or at least that does not form basic part in the structure of the song or don´t serve like support tours (* 21); when a bird emits a tour of continuous rate of short duration, at the beginning or at the end of the song, or drags it at the end of a flourish or finishing a cojoint variation in R, without reduction of the tours of discontinuous rate, we can tolerate it, although if in the descendants of that canary the quantitative presence of continuous rate tours is increased we will have to retire them of the breeding, since in this case we are in a desviation of the type of song that we try to obtain). It is preferable as a breeder a bird of repetitive song and little varied repertoire but without defects, that another one of rich and varied repertoire but with defects.

7º) Hierarchic role carried out in the flight cage (bird dominant or nondominant) (* 22).

8º) A correct morphologic type (great head, toracic amplitude, wide back, medium size, short legs, smooth, compact and shining plumage...) and a suitable position of song (horizontal). According to Giorgio de Baseggio, the male transmits to his descendants, in nine of each ten cases, the following characteristics:
-Stature (large, medium or small).
-Color and quality of the plumage.
-Bearing (position in which the bird exhibits the harmonic beauty of its morphologic type in the cage).

9º) Although implicit in the previous points, perfect functional and sanitary state.

10º) A breeding card and pedigree that guarantees the presence of all the phenotipic, genetic and functional characteristics exposed in the previous sections in the ancestors, descendants (if it is an adult bird) and other members of the family, like guarantee of its transmission to the following generations.

The knowledge of all these parameters will only be possible supposing that the birds to select are from our birdroom or from some friend of total confidence. The rest of the cases we will have to trust the good faith and transparency of the breeder of which we try to acquire the canaries.

When choosing a male from another birdroom as important as analizing carefully its song is the knowledge of the environmental factors that have surrounded it from their birth to their maturity (absence of teachers, hearing of the other canaries of the breeder, experience of the breeder, the premises, feeding, etc.) and, of course, of the breeding card and pedigree (with examination, if it is possible, of the song and the phenotype of the birds (* 23) that in those doccuments appear).

We should never select like reproducer a male without total guarantees of its genetic value, even if its song is excellent. We have to consider that if it has been educated with teacher we have no guarantee of the type of song that the bird is predisposed to (some lines have been selected by its capacity of copy and can be educated with birds from other line of song(* 24)).

1.5. - Selection of females.

Selection of females is more complex and difficult than males for an obvious reason: the male sings and we can appreciate his greater or smaller song aptitude, but the female doesn´t. Let us see the selection parameters, in many cases identical to the already seen for the males.

1º) Absence, in the birdroom, of song education with teachers or electronic means.

2º) Selection of the females based on the males already selected, two by each male (it is recommendable for the beginner to acquire males and females from the same breeder, considering always the breeder´s advise(* 25)).

3º) Females must be from the same line or song direction than males. When valuing song compatibility of male and female we will consider similarities in the apparatus of phonation, that determines the voice, or timbre of voice, on one hand, and of innate song pattern, that determines the type of tours that the canary is able to emit, on the other hand. In order to study the compatibility of voices in the case of the female, we will observe in the first place the voices of its brothers. In order to study the compatibility of its innate pattern of song we will analyze and value the song of its father and brothers or stepbrothers of father, considering the the parameters 2º to 7º of the previous point (* 26).

4º) Valuation of the quality and sonorous complexity of the calls or other sound manifestations, like indicative of the phonic apparatus qualities

5º) A suitable morphologic type (great head, torax amplitude, wide back, medium size, short legs, smooth, compact and bright plumage...). We will use the females to correct the morphologic deficiencies that the males show and as a way to balance the song phenotipic selection made in these, in damage of the morphologic phenotipic selection. According to Giorgio de Baseggio, the female transmits to its descendants, in nine of ten cases, the following characteristics:
-Physical Constitution.

6º) Perfect functional and sanitary state. From the point of view of the functional valuation it is of capital importance to know the reproductive qualities of the females of the line or family, because if they are bad breeders we will save unnecessary sufferings using foster mothers.

7º) A breeding card and pedigree that guarantee the presence in ancestors, descendants (if it´s an adult bird) and other family members of all the fenotype, genetic and functional characteristics exposed in the previous sections , like guarantee of their transmission to the following generations.

Notice also the considerations exposed in the previous point when speaking of the difference between the selection of own and other breeder birds, as well as the precautions to take in this last case.

1.6. - Selection of foster mothers.

As we will see , the best practice in song canaryculture it is to leave hens alone feeeding the youngsters (to avoid copy risks). This practice demands a great effort to the female and determines that the breeder must be sure to have hens able to take good care of the chicks by themselves

In order to finish this chapter we will make reference to the selection of foster mothers, essential point in the agenda of every high selective canary breeder.

Three are the reasons that justify this affirmation:

1º) The females that do not feed the youngters will be able to do more laying (although it is not recommendable more than four per year and resting a minimum of two weeks between layings) and to extend their reproductive life (* 27).

2º) The phenotipic and genetic selection usually causes the forgetfulness of the functional selection, with the consequent decrease in the reproductive capacity of our canaries.

3º) When we´ve got a high quality line of canaries we cannot leave the success in the breeding just on females able to feed properly to the youngsters; some great quality hens probably will not be able to do it.

If we do not have a familiar trunk with outstanding hens by their reproductive qualities that can be selected to make the functions of foster mothers, we will have to look for another fanciers hens able to do that role.

The more selected it is our line and greater is in it the inbreeding rate, more neccesary becomes the use of foster moms. Their number never is sufficient, because even if we´ve got many of them, throughout the breeding season, probably we would wish to have more, as there are always some hens that don´t behave as we hope (even if a female breeds properly a year this does not mean she´ll do the same the following , in fact females that have bred 7 or 8 birds, if don´t not receive the needed attentions during molt and winter, probably will not raise any birds the following season).


8 Fratantoni also mentions the role of neurohormonal nature impulses, that we will talk about ahead.

9. In the first days of life the volume of the CVS and the RA is small, without significant differences between males and females. With the pass of the days and as increases the level of testosterone in the blood, the volume of these nuclei in the brain of the males will increase and at the same time will evolve the sonorous manifestations (calls, subsong and , after this, plastic song). With the beginning of the molt , the growth of the nuclei stops, coinciding with a slope in the hormonal level in blood. Finalized the molt the growth continues until becomes stabilized when the maturity of the song or stable song is reached. Every year, the adult birds will repeat the process during molting: low level of testosterone in blood, diminishes the volume of CVS and RA and the song of the canary goes back to the phase of plastic song. Until the molt does not finalize and the testosterone level starts to raise, along with the volume of the cerebral nuclei, the canary does not return to a stable song. This it is the reason why adult males copy and even completely replace his song during the molt. The importance of hormones in the song is so relevant that by means of the injection of testosterone in hens scientists have been able to cause them the emission of clear masculine songs.

10. Let's imagine a canary that has copied of another one a simple and monotonous song, in spite of having faculties to have developed a rich and varied repertoire.

11. Canaries that sing on vertical position usually emit their songs in a more strident and precipitated way. For this reason it is recommended to raise the perches of the show cages , so inadequate positions of song can be, at least, partially corrected

12. Scientists have shown the relation between the size of the bird and the tonalities of their song. Large canaries usually sing in deeper tones.

13. In this way we include in the phenotype the visual characters and also the song.

14. Let's remember that the phenotype is the result of the action on the genotype of the environmental factors, in ample sense

phenotype = genotype + environment

Another form to express previously this is reflected in Walter´s triangle, in which an individual is represented as an equilateral triangle whose base is the hereditary patrimony and whose sides are the feeding and the environment respectively (we include the feeding among the environmental factors).

15. The judgment form of a bird song , unlike in other specialties, has a relative value, since it reflects the valuation of the song emitted during the fifteen or twenty minutes that the judgment lasts; a canary does not sing exactly twice in the same way and its quality, although it did not vary the repertoire, is not constant. We have to be conscious that the algid period, qualitatively, of the song is proportionally very short within the vital cycle of a bird (development, maturity and declivity) and that many birds do not arrive at the contests at the optimal moment of their song (by immaturity or exciment). The duration of the period of song fullness will be one of the parameters that we will have to work on. In spite of the saying, for a beginner a judgment form emitted by a judge of recognized technical solvence can be a useful instrument to replace his deficiencies with respect to the song of the race, more by knowing on what tours the canary bases its song that by the points that can have.

16. View breeding card example in the ANNEX.

17. We distinguish straight or linear kinship (the existing between individuals that descend from others: greats-grandfather, grandparents, parents, children...) and collateral kinship (the one of individuals that do not descend from others but that they come from a common trunk: uncles, cousins...). In order to measure the degree of linear kinship of a bird with another one, we will count the number of generations that there are until the ascestor or descendant which interests us, excluding the generation of the bird from we started off. In case of collateral kinship, we will count until the closest common ascestor the next one and then we will continue counting until arriving at the second bird, the resulting number will be the kinship degree. Let us see a practical example:

`A X B

`C X D

`E X F



Being Z the exemplary object of study, and E and F, its parents, will have a degree of linear kinship of 1º degree, whereas to A, B, C and D, the grandparents, will have of 2º degree.

Let us see another genealogical tree now:

`A X G

`H X I

`J X K



Is there any kinship between Z and and Y and in case that there is in what degree? Well, checking the pedigree we see that both have a common ancestor, the male A, common grandfather (they are, therefore, cousins brothers, since their respective fathers were stepbrothers). Following the rules exposed we see that from Z to A there are two degrees and from A to Y two more, therefore between Z and Y exists a collateral kinship of fourth degree.










18. View pedigree card of four generations in the annex. After having used cards of five and six generations, we have reached the conclusion that the most practical cards are those of four generations; since from the fifth generation the statistical percentage of the genes of each one of the birds that form it is reduced to the minimum:

1ª Generation: parents, 50% (1/2).

2ª Generation: grandparents, 25% (1/4).

3ª Generation, greats-grandfather, 12.5% (1/8).

4ª Generation: greats-greats-grandfather, 6.25% (1/16).

5ª Generation: 3,125% (1/32).

By that reason when a racially mixed bird, product of the crossing between two different races, is crossed with birds of one of the two parentales races during other three generations has been considered, in principle, pure bred, since the percentage of genes of the race in the fourth generation is of 93, 75%.

- G1. A X B = C (50% A / 50%B).

- G2. C X A = D (75% A / 25% B).

- G3. D x A = E (87, 5% A / 12.5% B).

- G4. E X A = A (93, 75% A / 6,25%B).

19. View our ideal form.

20. The absence of continuous rate tours in the song of our canaries is not capricious; we already saw the mutual incompatibility between the continuous rates and the discontinuous ones. The culture, development and qualitative and quantitative improvement of the tours of discontinuous rate implies the progressive elimination of all vestige of continuous rates in the song of our canaries.

21. Tours of continuous rate that arise in the song of our canaries at the end of the phase of plastic song or maturation (in the month of October and begining of November) are pardonable, but those birds that emit them from the beginnings of their song ( two months old) sounds of continuous rate demonstrate a genetic predisposition for the transmission of such and they do not have to be used like reproducers, except for causes of greater force.

22. As we will see at its moment, the role played by a canary in the hierarchic scale of the flight cage is very important, since if this one was the dominant bird, its subsong will have been taken like reference by the hierarchically inferior males. With this dominant birds we have an extra guarantee of the heredability of their song that has not been copied at all . Their non dominant brothers have contributed with less information to the development of the song of the flight . For that reason it is important to know what male takes the guideline of each flight, since, even if their song is of a little bit less quality, it has been developed mainly just by himself

23. We know that most of us have not enough room in our birdrooms to take care of the song of our adult birds. Sometimes we must even ask relatives or friends to keep the adults for us, knowing that they have common canaries that for sure will affect negatively to the song of our birds during the molt. Yet even in the case of adult canaries with a very degenerated song we often can get some information about the type of song that they used to have when we selected them as breeders

24. When birds from a certain line of song are trained with a teacher from a differnet one, they usually don´t assimilate in a right way the song of the teacher, since their apparatus and their innate model of song haven´t been selected in the same song direction that the teacher.

25. An advice: do not begin with more than two males and four females.

26. Although the song is determined by sex (on the basis of hormonal secretions), we start from the hypothesis, and so subject of discussion, that the genes that govern the innate pattern of song are bound to sex (to chromosome Z), therefore the female would contribute to its children the information contained in the inherited masculine sexual chromosome of its father. However, the song is a character of Quantitative Genetics in whose manifestation take part multitude of genes, many of which are not related directly to the song function (like which they determine the different morphologic characters that we have seen that they influence of one or another form in the sonorous transmission).

27. A female that feeds the youngsters usually has a reproductive life of three or, in the best of the cases, four years. The females that do not feed, if they are properly treated, can be used five or six years (I have even seen nine years old hens breeding).


© Miguel Angel Martín Espada


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